'The Great British Bake Off': week eight review

We weren’t quite sure what to make of quarter final week’s theme - advanced dough - but it basically involved sweet breads, an Eastern European loaf that had (almost all) the bakers scratching theirs and the doughnut showcased in all its sugary glory

by Natalie Hammond

The obscure theme of last night’s episode gave the judges license to throw whatever they liked at the five remaining bakers. No matter, this lot love a challenge. Their signature was to make a sweet fruit loaf with enriched dough. Not only does this type take far longer to prove – Paul’s recipe takes 3.5 hours and the bakers had one less, bit hypocritical – but they weren’t allowed to use a tin to shape the bleedin’ thing. A rather tall order, you’ll agree, but their efforts enchanted. Luis’ tree-shaped loaf had cinnamon-flavoured trunk and a brandy-soaked sugar cube in each bun, which formed the branches. It got a ‘spectacular’ out of Mary, while Paul said it had an excellent crumb and a lovely open structure. Nancy took the radical decision to microwave her dough to speed up the proving process. Paul looked alarmed and called such measures ‘dangerous’. Alas he was right as while Nancy’s finished plait looked like it could feed the 5,000, it hadn’t been proved for long enough. Chetna’s loaf looked the most intriguing. Inspired by the Croatian povitica bread, it was thin spirals of dough stacked on top of one another and flavoured with a paste of almonds, dates and cinnamon. Paul said the spice was used a little liberally, but loved the unusual, distinctive swirls of her loaf when it was sliced.


The bakers all made a sterling effort in the signature, putting even more pressure on the technical, which was a Croatian povitica. Hang on that sounds familiar…isn't that what Chetna just made? What are the odds that the bakers were tasked with making the Eastern European hybrid of a bread and pastry that Chetna had already made a version of that morning? The 'Bake Off' gods have obviously got her back. Anyway, a povitica is a tricky one to master. It’s one rectangle of dough that the bakers have to roll as thin as they dare, evenly cover with walnut filling, roll up into a metre-long sausage and coil into a loaf tin to make four distinct spirals. Having already popped one out of her oven earlier in the day, Chetna had all the proving timings down. While the others were taking their sweet time over the stretching, rolling and proving, Chetna only left 10 minutes for the second prove and got hers in the oven for a low and slow bake.


When it came to tasting at the ‘gingham alter’, Chetna’s was naturally the most accomplished, with a good flavour and texture to her near-perfectly baked loaf.  Luis’ rise was slightly stunted and his filling unevenly spread, while Richard’s lopsided loaf had some raw bits of dough. Speaking of raw bits, the judges couldn’t even try Martha’s for all the uncooked lumps, leaving her trailing in last place behind the other bakers.


The showstopper was one of the most lip-smacking we’ve seen this series – 36 doughnuts of two different flavours. Paul kicked things off ominously by boasting that he’d made 30,000 doughnuts in his time.


Richard’s funfair-themed spread – comprising of caramel-glazed doughnuts stuffed with apple and heart-shaped doughnuts filled with rhubarb jam and topped with custard swirls – was ‘cracking’, according to Paul. Mary’s eyes lit up on contact with one’s sugary glaze and Paul conceded they had a great fry on them. Luis pushed the boat out by presenting his cocktail-inspired doughnuts in glasses, each with a straw stuck in the top filled with Baileys. Luis deliberated over the liqueur, saying Mary would probably hate it. Boy was he wrong. ‘Why are we bothering with the doughnuts?’ was Mary’s first question, before she helped herself to another glass.  


Rather like the éclair nightmare of last week, Martha was driven nuts by this showstopper. Her doughnuts were fatally over-proved, which meant they had massive air holes and were more like frisbees than plump footballs. 


Richard must have made ‘Bake Off’ history by being crowned star baker for the FOURTH time in the competition. Cue wide-eyes, incredulity and gratefulness from the man of the hour, while Paul was emphatic about the fact that the judges have no favourites and the competition’s still wide open. Hmm…Alas Martha’s dodgy doughnuts sealed her fate as this week’s baker to get the boot. Mary said Martha’s name would most definitely crop up again in baking circles and looked genuinely bereft to wave goodbye to the 17 year-old. All together now, awwwww.


Some 'advanced dough' recipes you're going to love...


Easy jam doughnut muffins

Churros with chocolate sauce

Sticky apple buns

Apricot and cobnut plaited loaf

And don't forget to check out our cheat's guide to this week's recipes.


Image: BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon

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Carla  Griscti

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Editorial assistant on allaboutyou; Music lover, travel bee and food fanatic.

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